Amy-Jill Levine’s recent book, Witness at the Cross, includes a chapter entitled “The Other Victims.” It is the account of Jesus’s interaction with the two anonymous men crucified with him. Dr. Levine aptly suggests that the inclusion by the Gospel writers of these two condemned men forces us to consider those awaiting execution in today’s prisons.
Over my years as a pastor and a bishop, I have spent many hours sitting with men condemned to be executed. Unlike the men in the Gospels, the ones I have visited have names. I have known some of their families. I listened to the anguished cries of a mother who watched her son executed by the state. She loved her son no less than the mother of the person he had murdered. In the name of “justice for the victim,” the state created additional victims and added to the culture of violence that plagues our world.
South Carolina is set to resume executions later this month. Since the state has had difficulty obtaining the lethal drugs needed to put Richard Moore to death, he must choose between the electric chair and the firing squad. Below is a letter I have sent to the governor requesting that he stop this barbaric action.
May Jesus’s attentiveness to the two other victims of state-sponsored execution on that fateful day two thousand years ago cause us to remember the approximately 2500 persons awaiting execution in our prisons today. From my understanding of the Incarnation, their execution will be a repeat of Jesus’s crucifixion!
It was for the two “bandits,” those participating in the execution, and us that Jesus prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 CEB).
The Honorable Henry McMaster
1100 Gervais Street
Columbia, South Carolina 29201
Dear Governor McMaster:
I wish to strongly urge you to stay the execution of Richard Moore, currently scheduled to take place April 29. While Mr. Moore’s crime is a grave tragedy for which accountability is appropriate, it does not reach the level of premeditation and heinousness for which the death penalty is intended. From the news reports and court records, he entered the convenient store unarmed and his offense was fueled by drug addiction; therefore, the resulting murder was not premediated and took place in a struggle over a weapon.
During this Holy Week for Christians, we relive the state sponsored execution of Jesus the Christ. As a retired United Methodist bishop, pastor, and seminary professor, I strongly support my denomination’s opposition to the death penalty. No evidence exists that executions are a deterrent to crime, and death inflicted by the state only adds to the culture of violence that permeates our society. Having visited persons on death row over more than fifty years of Christian ministry, I can testify that it only adds to the number of victims of violence as the families and friends of those executed are victimized by the state.
I hope that before you make your decision whether to stop this barbaric act that you will exercise courage and visit with Mr. Moore and his family. As Jesus was attentive in his dying hours to the two men executed with him and offered forgiveness and assurance, I hope you will be attentive to Mr. Moore as a fellow human being, made in the divine image and redeemed in Jesus Christ. As one who has publicly declared as being “pro-life,” please be consistently pro-life and respect Mr. Moore’s right to life.
Please be assured of my prayers as you discern the fate of Mr. Moore. May you bear witness to the justice and compassion as made known in Jesus the Christ, whom you and I seek to follow and serve.
Kenneth L. Carder